Vijay Pattni04 April 2013

Meet the new Detroit Electric SP:01

It’s a Lotus Elise, but not as you know it: 201bhp pure electric roadster breaks cover…

Detroit Electric SP:01

Look up: that blue thing in the picture above is Detroit Electric's new SP:01 sportscar. It's electric. And it looks a little...familiar, doesn't it?

That's because it's based on the rolling chassis of a Lotus Elise; a "well-proven" underpinning that the Detroit-based carmaker is utilising to produce a very fast, very agile and very light pure electric roadster. Hmm... a Elise-based all-electric sports car?

The recipe might be derivative, but Detroit Electric has a history all of its own. The company began making electric cars at the turn of the 20th century, from 1907 right up until 1939 (ahem), using lead acid batteries for early electric carriages.

See more pics of the Detroit Electric SP:01 here

And Detroit Electric had some interesting clients too: the wife of former President Eisenhower used to own one, as did Thomas Edison and even John Rockefeller. Oh, and Henry Ford - who we think knew a bit about cars - bought his wife Clara a Detroit Electric automobile too.

Fast forward to 2008, and the revival of the brand by former Lotus CEO Albert Lam. He says it took DE five years of research and development to create the SP:01, which will be the first DE product built since '39.

So the essentials: it's a rear-wheel-drive, two-seater drop-top with a mid-mounted battery pack. Weight sits nice and low at a respectable 1,090kg, and underneath sits a bonded aluminium Elise chassis. The wheelbase is identical to the stock Elise, as is the SP:01's front and rear suspension setup, though the Bilstein dampers and Eibach coil springs have been retuned. There's also no power steering, either. Bench-pressers rejoice!

The bodywork is bespoke, fabricated in carbon fibre by motorsport engineers URT. Sitting where the standard Elise's petrol engine would be is an air-cooled, asynchronous AC electric motor, made in the USA and powered by two lithium polymer batteries, all sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. We're told 1st is ‘good' for up to 30mph, 2nd for 60mph, and 3rd/4th for upwards. Power sits at 201bhp, it'll go from 0-62mph in a claimed 3.7 seconds, and it will top out at 155mph. Torque sits at 166lb ft, and is available from zero rpm.

See more pics of the Detroit Electric SP:01 here

There are vented 282mm discs all round with regenerative braking, hiding behind 16-inch front and 17-inch rear alloy wheels. Inside, there's leather and carbon fibre, along with full smartphone integration, including the ability to adjust the climate control remotely, too.

All this comes at a price, mind. A mighty big one. It'll go on sale in America for $135,000 - which when converted to UK money with VAT equals around £105,000. Ouchy. Just 999 will be built - in Detroit - and will go on sale in August this year.

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